How the fitness class format has evolved
By Darren Floro-Bryant
There are so many options out there now for a quick and easy workout in a class format, but is a class environment right for you? In years past, fitness classes or aerobics were designed to accommodate a very large group of fitness enthusiasts, but also a very niche demographic. Fitness classes of the past had everyone doing the exact same moves at the exact same time. Remember Step classes and good old-fashioned aerobics classes? And who can forget the choreography? These classes are still effective today, and still serve a great purpose, but now there are so many styles and influences. Classes are catering to a wider variety of individuals with very different fitness levels, needs, and goals. Let’s talk about a few types classes offered out in the fitness industry today, that are available to everyone and what makes them appealing.
Spin Class in the past was simply exercising on a stationary bike, music in the background, an instructor motivating you to adjust your pedal tempo and resistance fluctuations, and sometimes a video screen in front of you taking you through a variety of terrains. Today, the music is louder and even often the pace-setter, the intensity is greater, and sometimes the bikes move or pivot to give the sensation of a more realistic ride. Even the screens have been improved to immerse you in the environment to match the ride. Spin classes are great for cycling enthusiasts, but also for individuals loving the group feel while still working as an individual towards your own goal.
Boot Camps have always come and gone into the fitness scene and always with an added twist. The basics are the same, a format that loosely follows a military boot camp training session based mostly on calisthenics, body weight exercises, and rudimentary non-conventional resistance training (i.e., using sandbags, truck tires, logs, et cetera) to whip you into shape. Boot Camps are an awesome option because they can really be done anywhere and are often offered by many gyms and independent trainers throughout a city.
HIIT classes (High-Intensity Interval Training) were built on the backs of the original styles of aerobics classes, resistance training, cardiovascular machines (treadmills, stationary bikes, et cetera), calisthenics, and one on one training. In the class environment, everyone is doing the same exercises at their own intensity level. The plus side with HIIT classes is you can even split up the class into smaller HIIT stations or grouping and have the participants rotate in smaller more focused groups allowing them to push even more intensely. The great thing about HIIT classes is they can be somewhat individualized because each participant chooses how intensely they want to perform each exercise in the HIIT circuit.
There are even Muscle Circuit classes now that have taken 1on1 personal training and adapted it to a class format. They generally take a workout program designed for an individual client and make modifications or adaptations to satisfy a large number of participants for maximum results. There are minimal cardiovascular elements added, but rather a greater focus on resistance training and muscle building. Although they are less individualized to 1-on-1 training, these are a great way to follow a traditional workout program, but in a group setting.
And let’s not forget Cross Fit classes. They follow a similar format to a HIIT class, but they incorporate a higher percentage of Olympic weightlifting moves, powerlifting, and strongman type exercises. Cross Fit classes have a little more of a competitive element to them. This is great because it can add a different dynamic but can also add a great element of comradery to the workouts pushing each other to the next level.
These are just a few of the styles of classes that are offered out in the world of fitness, but there are even more specialized classes that are a little more streamlined and focused on specialized training offered in a group setting. Classes are a great way to get a structured workout at a lesser cost, but they do come with pros and cons like; are you comfortable exercising in a group, and are you able to work out on a strict(er) schedule? Whether that is a motivator or a deterrent for you depends entirely on your disposition and the type of class format that appeals to you.